Gardens & wildlife

D'Aubigny Rd Where did that come from

D’Aubigny Road – where did that come from?
by Suzanne Hinton

From September 2020 Round Hill Reporter

Readers of The Round Hill Reporter might well be familiar with two excellent articles from March 2014 about the history of the estate: May I offer some further insights into the names of the streets in the area?

When the Round Hill Park Estate was first laid out in 1853, none of the newly-traced roads had names, apart from Round Hill Crescent itself. A Lennox Road was mooted but never built. Ashdown Road, created later, is not on the plan.

Gradually the promoters of the new estate, the Conservative Land Society, began to sell plots of land for building. No commercial property was allowed. Houses had to conform to designs laid down by the promoter. The estate was to be genteel.

By 1859 the promoters had hit upon the idea of giving the estate ‘class” by paying their respects to the Dukes of Richmond. Despite having grand houses at Goodwood and Portland Place in London, the 5th Duke of Richmond, who died in 1860, seems to have been fond of Brighton: as an enthusiastic race horse owner he could often be seen at Brighton Race course; as colonel of the Royal Sussex Light Infantry Militia he was, according to his brother Lord William, “So devoted ... to his regiment, that when it was quartered in Brighton ... he left a Christmas party at Goodwood in order to dine with his brother officers at mess.” That mess was a rather special one. It was in the Royal Riding School (now the Corn Exchange). But the noble Duke had other links with Brighton: he was the Grand Provincial Master of Freemasons and in his honour a short-lived Masonic Lodge was founded in Brighton as early as 1824; he frequently stayed at East Lodge in Egremont Place ... and his sister lived in Brighton from 1831 until her death in 1861. More about her later.

To refer merely to ‘the 5th Duke of Richmond’ seems very impersonal. He was Charles Gordon- Lennox. Which brings us back to Round Hill Crescent. You may have walked up the ‘cat-creep’ between Round Hill Crescent and Wakefield Road. The promoters of the Round Hill Estate clearly showed on the plan of the new estate that they intended this thoroughfare to be a road. By 1859 this road is marked in the annual directory as Lennox Road, leading from Round-hill crescent to Richmond-road. No houses at present. Lennox Road remained laid out for building in directory after directory until 1871. In directories of later years, there is no mention of Lennox Road. No houses would ever be built fronting on to it, probably because it was too steep The road became a cat-creep ... and lost its name.

So where does d’Aubigny fit in? Well, in addition to being Duke of Richmond, Charles Gordon Lennox was Duke d’Aubigny. How did such a respectable English family come to be part of the French nobility? It was all down to one woman, Charles’s great-great-great-great grandmother, Louise Renée de Penancoët de Keroual.

It all happened roughly like this:
Louise had been Lady-in-Waiting to Louis XIV’s sister-in-law, Henrietta. Henrietta was sister to the Charles Stuart (later Charles II). Henrietta was sent to England in 1670 by Louis XIV on a diplomatic mission. Charles had not seen his sister Henrietta for nine years. He rushed to Dover to meet her. At Dover, Charles caught sight of Henrietta’s 21-year old lady-in-waiting. He lost his heart to the beautiful Frenchwoman. The king soon installed Louise in Whitehall Palace with the official title of lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine.

The relationship between Charles and Louise lasted some fifteen years, until Charles’ death.

Charles produced a large number of illegitimate offspring, several of them with Louise. Louise’s first born was a boy, also called Charles. By the time the little lad was three years old, he rejoiced in the name and titles of Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond, Duke of Lennox, Earl of March, Baron Settrington, Earl Darnley and Baron Torbolton, all bestowed on him by his royal father. However, it was not until just one year before Charles’ death in 1685 that he persuaded his cousin Louis XIV, to ennoble Louise. She became duchesse d’Aubigny. At the age of 13, young Charles Lennox added the title of Duke d’Aubigny to his armoury of titles.

But the promotors of the Round Hill estate had even more reasons for wishing to honour the Richmond family. In the late 1850s, Brighton was decidedly Whiggish. In both the 1857 and the 1859 elections, the Conservatives (Tories) had lost seats to the Liberals (Whigs / Radicals). The Richmond family was, on the whole, staunchly if not even ultra-Conservative.

The promoters, the newly formed Conservative Land Society, had a very clear objective - Votes. The plan was simple, as stated when the Society was launched in 1852: The Society was for the purpose of aiding members of all classes in obtaining the county franchise and to counteract the attempts of the Radical Freehold Land Societies in the English counties to swamp the present constituencies.

So the plan was both simple ... and political. Any individual could buy a share in the Society. As soon as the Society had amassed adequate funds, it would buy a large parcel of land to develop. Society members could then apply for an ‘allotment’ (plot) on the estate as it was laid out. Once you had bought your plot of land, you became a rate payer and as a rate payer you could apply to vote. You did not have to vote Conservative but ...... No pressure was ever brought to bear on plot owners to vote ‘appropriately’, but at a meeting in Brighton, the Secretary of the company boasted that on one similar development, at Ealing Rectory, of the 161 plots, 15 out of every 16 plot holders had voted in the Conservative cause. By the end of its first year, the Society had bought up estates in Richmond (Surrey), Tonbridge Wells & 15 other towns.

General election results in Brighton over the following few years seem to show that this ploy had very little effect on local elections – but a beautiful estate was eventually created on the Round Hill.

So back to The Duke of Richmond’s sister. She was born Lady Jane Gordon-Lennox. She married Mr Lawrence Peel, brother of Sir Robert (twice British Prime Minister). From 1831 until her death, Lady Jane had her main residence at 32 Sussex Square in Brighton. She was much loved in the town for her patronage of the County Hospital (on two occasions she had the honour of laying the foundation stone for a new wing to the hospital); for her support for the Female Orphan Asylum in Eastern Road; for her upkeep of a school for poor children run in her own home in Sussex Square.

When Lady Jane died in 1861 there seemed to be a genuine outpouring of grief. She was described as a lady whose exemplary conduct had won for her the love and friendship of all who had the pleasure of knowing her (Brighton Gazette). This was clearly a good time to have honoured her family and promote the new estate and political project of the Conservative Land Society.

Return to An index of Streets.

This page was last updated by Ted on 06-Sep-2023
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